Franz Joseph Haydn
(31 martie 1732, Rohrau an der Leitha – 31 mai 1809, Viena)
Austrian composer whose creation retains its freshness even to this day, Joseph Haydn manifested unusual musical skills from an early age. At just 8 years of age he is accepted in the Saint Stephen Cathedral choir of Vienna where he will stay until he reaches the age of 17, later becoming the assistant of composer Nicola Porpora from whom he learned the fundamental principles of composition.
In 1761 he is offered the position of Kapellmeister (director of music) at the Eszterházy palace, position that will financially support him for more than 30 years. Here is where he composes his first symphonies for the orchestral ensemble and, despite the fact that he had received a large number of duties, these were artistic in nature, which was a great opportunity for Haydn.
A big change in Haydn's life occurs in 1779 after the renegotiation of his contract. Given the fact that all his compositions until then were property of the Eszterházy family, Haydn was allowed to compose for others and to sell his compositions to editors. This change had a massive importance in his career, thus becoming internationally known.
Though he was one of the main composers of Europe, in the same time he was bound by his contract with the Eszterházy's in an isolated province in Hungary. Soon after the death of prince Nikolaus (1790) and his replacement by his son Anton, Haydn is allowed to travel. Therefore, in the same year Haydn travels to London where he meets the young Ludwig van Beethoven in his native town, Bonn. During his stay in England, Haydn composed his most popular works including symphony number 94 in G major, 100 in G major, 103 in E flat major, 104 in D major, his number 59 quartet in G minor and his number 39 trio in G major which, besides fame brought him profit as well.
After the death of prince Anton, following the proposal made by his successor, Nikolaus the 2nd, Haydn returns to the Eszterházy court as Kapellmeister and, over the next 6 years Haydn composes his last 6 Masses. On 31 May 1809, shortly after the french army's attack over Vienna, Haydn dies. In 15 June 1809, a memorial service was held in the Schottenkirche (Scottish Church) in honor of the giant Austrian musician where Mozart's Requiem was performed.
Given that he spent a long and important period of his life working for the Eszterházy family where basically he was isolated from the outside music, Haydn had no choice but to be original. Taking into account his whole period of creation which spans over 6 decades (1749-1802), a gradual evolution of his style can be easily observed. His early works clearly show us his exploration of music and search of new means of expression, but since the beginning of 1770 when Haydn comes in contact with the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Drive) period, his music is characterized by an increased intensity and expressiveness, especially in the minor keys. His most popular works of this period are: his two symphonies (number 44 in E minor and 45 in F sharp minor), Piano Sonata in C minor Hob. XVI/20 and his 6 string quartets opus 20.
In the period that followed after 1790, stimulated by his journeys in England, Haydn develops a new style through which he combines musical themes from folklore with his own ideas, maintaining the strictness of the musical structure. Considered father of the symphony and string quartet, Haydn contributed fundamentally to the development and crystallization of the two musical genres which will be used, under this new formula, by most of the romantic period composers.
Here you can find a complete list of Joseph Haydn's compositions.